Director: Ivan Zuccon
Writers: Ivo Gazzarrini, H.P. Lovecraft (story)
Stars: Debbie Rochon, Michael Segal, Marysia Kay
In recent years, Italian horror cinema has gone largely underground. At first sight it seems like genre films are few and far between; and that’s certainly true, there are far fewer releases coming out than there were during the glory days of the 60s and 70s (or even 80s). However, under the surface there are still a number of filmmakers who are – or at least were – regularly putting together relevant productions: Bruno Mattei was churning them out until his death, Giulio De Santi averages one film a year; and that’s not even mentioning the numerous neophyte directors who choose to make their debut in the genre. Unfortunately, what has changed is that almost all of these productions are made on a micro-budget level, which means that almost none of them can call on the same level of resources (or crew-members with the same degree of technical accomplishment) as their predecessors from earlier years.
Among these tuppeny auteurs, one of the most interesting is Ivan Zuccon. Since making his debut with The Darkness Beyond in 2000 he has made a number of shot-on-video productions (including the not at all bad The Shunned House) and graduated to fully fledged films with Nympha in 2007. Although his ambition might have increased, his interests remain broadly the same: almost all of his films owe a huge debt to H.P. Lovecraft, albeit filtered through a style which owes much to Dario Argento and more particularly Pupi Avati. With Colour from the Dark (2008) he actually went so far as to adapt Lovecraft’s short story The Colour Out of Space, which had also previously been filmed as Die, Monster, Die! in 1965 and The Curse in 1987.
Pietro (Michael Segal) is a hardworking farmer who is left looking after the family land while his much loved brother is away fighting in the war (Pietro is unable to fight because of his damaged knee). He is much loved by his wife Lucia (Debbie Rochon) and the two of them live with her younger sister Alice (Marysia Kay), who is a mute. One day, while attempting to clear a blockage in their well, they accidentally release a strange kind of ‘gas’. Thereafter, bizarre things start to happen: their crops grow bountifully (but decay quickly); trees glow with a strange phosphorescent light; and more importantly they all begin to lose their minds. The gas, it seems, has demonic properties as well as a sulfurous smell, and Pietro is faced with the difficult task of saving them all from eternal damnation.
Although the lack of budget is evident throughout, this is an effective little film. The plot is familiar and, once the set up has been established, it doesn’t really have anywhere to go, but the changes that Zuccon has made to the story do act in its favor. Having a period setting is a clever move and it’s well realized, especially thanks to the action hardly ever leaving the confines of the main farmhouse location. Making the threat of a demonic rather than extraterrestrial nature also works well (although it could have done without the cheap CGI effects). It has a very deliberate pace, slowly moving towards its inevitably downbeat conclusion, and Zuccon conjures up a decent sense of atmosphere. His debt to Avati is very evident and stylistically at least it does its best to ape The House With the Windows That Laughed, which isn’t by any means a bad thing. At the very least Colour from the Dark manages to avoid being the usual blend of old-hat alternative cliches and torture porn which are the meat and veg of current Italian horror films, and for that it should be applauded. Zuccon’s films might be raw, but they certainly aren’t without interest.